What is an AHJ?
In North America, AHJs (Authority Having Jurisdictions) act as the enforcement arm of the NFPA 79/790/791 codes that govern our industry when it comes to electrical evaluations of equipment.
While it was not intended to be confusing, the fact of the matter is that the AHJ isn’t just one person or office.
For instance, for a fire safety issue, the AHJ may be a fire marshal. For a structural issue, the AHJ may be a building code inspector. For a health or public safety issue, it may be an emergency management agency director or health department.
For engineering contractors dealing with electrical evaluations of equipment the AHJ representative is an electrical inspector.
It is important to note that no single AHJ is the same in its approach and requirements and that often times, when a building permit is being verified for sign-off, an AHJ’s authority is often left in the hands of a single inspector in the field who may require certain actions be performed for verifying the safety of your electrical machinery based on his/her read of the situation.
AHJs come in many forms
Typically, an AHJ is located within your city’s governmental structure. However, in certain situations it can also be for an entire county like LA County, US army bases, or even the DOE (Department of Energy) itself.
NFPA codes classify the AHJ as “an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure.”
In the annex of codes, this definition is further added to:
“Where public safety is primary, the AHJ may be a federal, state, local, or other regional department or individual such as a fire chief; fire marshal; chief of a fire prevention bureau, labor department, or health department; building official; electrical inspector; or others having statutory authority. For insurance purposes, an insurance inspection department, rating bureau, or other insurance company representative may be the AHJ.”
This statement reinforces the fact that the AHJ is typically far more than just an individual entity. Instead, it is viewed as a collective force of representatives from a local government. The AHJ could work for the state or a federal agency, in some cases they come from the private sector, for instance when it comes to insurance.*
Lewis Bass does its work on behalf of AHJs
While companies like Lewis Bass are the ones doing the work to get your machinery compliant and safe, what is not commonly known is that an AHJ is the primary driving force behind requiring the work to be performed in the first place.
Lewis Bass (referred to as FEB or Field Evaluation Body) is called in by companies that have been given feedback from city inspectors/AHJs during their final building permit sign-off that certain unlisted electrical equipment needs to be 3rd party certified.
A key part of this symbiotic relationship between AHJs and 3rd party inspectors that establishes this link of accountability is the requirement of reports and sticker logs.
Reports from the 3rd party inspector must fully explain the results of the electrical safety testing performed on the equipment and the testing equipment must have been recently calibrated. Additionally, the report submitted to the AHJ must correspond to a unique sticker number affixed to each machine that has passed evaluations.
When a 3rd party inspector (FEB or NRTL) comes to the facility to perform the evaluations of the equipment it is in fact at the request of the AHJ itself even though the company pays the inspector for the service.
The only difference is the timing for when the 3rd party inspector is called out to perform the required work.
Two common situations can apply:
1) When the AHJ requests it for equipment, the company must reach out to approved inspectors for that city and schedule the evaluations to be performed.
2) The company itself is aware of the equipment being non-listed, custom manufactured, or has previously had evaluations performed and is moving facilities and seeks out a 3rd party inspector earlier on in the process to avoid permit delays.
Be overly prepared for an inspection
As one cannot predict the exact requirements and legal interpretations that any specific AHJ may use in your area, it is important to be overly prepared prior to their visiting for permit sign-off. This is doubly-true if you are installing new equipment or moving facilities (and equipment) to a new AHJ you are not familiar with.
To ensure permit sign-off, you should check and correct equipment safety non-compliances from both a worker safety standpoint (shielding, EMO buttons, safety signs, etc) and also from an electrically operational one: is the equipment NRTL listed or evaluated by an FEB?
It is also helpful to solicit advice and schedule facility walk-throughs with electrical and facility safety specialists to generate a list of potential blockers and steps to address them prior to a city inspection.
Do you have a need for our services?
Lewis Bass can help your team identify the most common safety issues in your facility, along with providing immediate referrals to our trusted partners to address them on your behalf.
Not sure what service you need from us?
Take our service identifier quiz here.
Are you uncertain if your equipment is unlisted or not at your facility?
Lewis Bass has you covered here as well: download our unlisted equipment self-identification flyer here.
Do you have a need for an urgent machinery evaluation?
Please reach out to us using our contact form here or call us directly at our office line 408-942-8000. We are always available to help with rush jobs and permit-blocking safety situations at your facility.